Tag Archives: new clothes

New Clothes – Persian New Year

Description of Informant

PK (79) is a small, frail woman with dyed blonde hair and piercing eyes. PK was born and raised in Abadan, Iran in an “Oil Company Family.” OCFs were families whose primary income came from the large British oil company in Iran. They were well compensated and taken care of, living in western-style homes in protected communities. Many OCFs were secular or subscribed to a western religion in favor of Islam. PK immigrated to England in 1976 before coming to America (California) in 1978.


Context of Interview

The informant, PK, is cooking a traditional Persian stew (khoresh) while describing the custom to the collector, BK, her grandson. Text spoken in Farsi is translated and italicized.


BK: So you were saying, in the morning when you wake up, all your clothes are new?

PK: Yes, from underwear and beyond— now they say everything should be new. Everything new. It’s with the new year, new clothing, new everything. Now frankly if it has any other meaning I don’t know. But from childhood we would wake up [in the new year] with so much joy and mirth and we’d all change our clothes, from underwear to undershirts, everything. They would sew new clothes, you know? [In Iran] it wasn’t like now where you’d go shopping… you had to have your clothes made. “Khayat,” you know, tailor. Then, everything was new. Even a ribbon for your hair was new. Everything new.

BK: What would happen to the old stuff?

PK: Nothing. It’s not like we threw it away! We just… wanted something new. Then, all dressed up, we’d go do “Aideedani” [visiting people during the new year].

Collector’s Reflection

With the strike of the new year, PK’s family would immediately change their clothes. Often, the clothing they changed into had been sewn specially for the occasion. It was not essential to change your entire wardrobe— that would be wasteful. But it was important to begin the new year fresh, and clothing was a part of this. You wouldn’t only wear a new t-shirt and shorts, though. Men would dress in tailored suits, women would adorn themselves in fresh jewels.

This tradition has evolved as the world has Westernized. Persian-Americans often go on a shopping spree on or prior to the new year to stock up on fresh clothing. The time aligns with the American tradition of “Spring Cleaning,” so while in Iran one wouldn’t toss their old garments, today it’s much more “out with the old, in with the new.” 

New Pinch

Main Body:

Informant: So let me tell you about “New Pinch.” All the children, like all of the children in India, when we grew up, any time you wear – wear new clothes, your friends or family or anybody will see you and they’ll, you know, they’ll say, “Oh new clothes!” Then they’ll pinch you and say “New Pinch!” And you’re supposed to say thank you, otherwise they’ll keep pinching. 

Interviewer: So saying thank you is the only way to get them to stop.

Informant: Yes. 

Interviewer: Is it one thank you for everyone pinching you or just one is good enough?

Informant: No, it has to be one specific thank you for each person. So yeah this is something that everyone I knew did as a kid. Even know, you know, I still do it all the time so I guess it’s imprinted. I don’t know maybe it’s because we always wore uniforms to school if someone had a new piece of clothing or whatever that we saw them in, it was much more of a big deal than it would be here. But I’m not sure, that’s just an idea.


The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This tradition is something she’s done since being a child, something that’s part of her culture. As her own child, I have personally been the victim of it many times, often after receiving clothes from her.


I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.


This reminds me a lot of birthday punches. Birthday punches, if you’re unfamiliar, are definitely an American custom but it could be done elsewhere as well. My experience with it definitely peaked in middle school and I feel like the boys did it much more than the girls. Essentially, if it was your birthday, you would get punched, usually on the arm, once for every year of age you had. Boys would often chase each other down and they would not hold back at all.

Similarly, “New Pinch” has that aspect of introducing pain when something good is happening to someone such as getting new clothes. It feels like a way for a person to remind the person who has the new clothes that they’re not so special, that other people still have to be acknowledged (in this case, with a thanks). Additionally it’s interesting that “New Pinch” is always said English, despite originating in India. It could be that the people who get new clothes semi-regularly are those with the money or status to be able to attend a good school that teaches good English. So it acts as a sort of class indicator.

Evil eye sayings

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. She says that a common thing to say when you see someone  in new clothes, or looking particularly beautiful; or when someone has very good fortune in (for instance) an exam or a job; or, especially, with children and new babies; is

“Nazr-bad-door” or “Chashme-bad-door”







which, word-for-word, means “look-bad-far-away” or “eye-bad-far-away”, but translates to, “May the Bad Gaze/Evil Eye stay far away from you.”

Analysis: The purpose of this little saying is basically to keep away the Evil Eye, which the informant says can be put on someone if they are envied or have something that others covet (eg, good grades or good health). When the Evil Eye is put on you, you may fall sick, fail in your job or school, lose your money, etc. Children are especially susceptible because they are often the center of attention, especially in the informant’s Pakistani family, and so if someone merely looks at a child with selfish or ungracious thought in their mind, the child could fall ill or have an accident, etc. It is thus important to remember to praise God when you see something beautiful and not be jealous or ungrateful, and this phrase is a way to remind oneself of that, and also to express the desire to protect someone from others’ ill gazes as well. The informant said all this as what people “used to believe”, implying that the traditional phrase is kept even though the specific belief may have been altered or abandoned altogether.